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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, a predominantly black community, one of twelve children of Tecora and Alexander Arbor. He had two sisters and nine brothers, and his ancestors had received land in the area when slavery ended. Outgoing, humorous, and loquacious by nature, Arbor possessed a typically rural southern sense of place. During an oral history interview in the mid‐1980s, he described Cotton Plant as, “A little place that only me and the Good Lord knows [with a population of] 1,661 up until the day I left, and there's never been that many since.” Like his siblings, Arbor received a private school education. During his years in Arkansas he attended Arkadelphia–Cotton Plant Academy. Around 1930 the family left the farm area and moved to Chicago as part of a northerly migration of blacks seeking employment opportunities Arbor s father worked as a carpenter ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

U.S. Navy submarine commander, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of John and Audrey (Crouch) Bryant, and “one generation removed from poor southern sharecroppers.” His parents divorced while he was young, and Bryant spent his earliest years living in Kinloch, a black suburb of St. Louis. Among the biggest influences in his early life were his grandparents Julius and Ruby Crouch. He later moved to Indianapolis to live with his father and attended a combination of Catholic and public schools until enrolling in Cathedral High School. A 1984 graduate of the school Bryant related that it was here that I got a strong foundation excelled academically and was a drum major in the band and captain of the Brain Game team the school s version of a debate team While Bryant was a sports enthusiast and was first coached by his father he also had ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

U.S. naval officer and submarine commander, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of William and Paulyne Bundy. His father was a World War II army veteran and construction worker, and his mother was a homemaker. Bundy attended high school at Baltimore City College, a premier all-boys school that was integrated—“a pretty big deal in those days.” Bundy experienced few problems and received “a very good foundation; …the integrated environment prepared me for competition later in life.” In 1963, at the age of seventeen, Bundy became interested in joining the naval reserves after watching them in action as a sea cadet at Fort McHenry. However, his true inspiration to join the navy came from his aunt, Joan Johnson, who served in the WAVES during World War II. Once in the reserves, Bundy gained valuable sea experience aboard the destroyer-escort Darby Among those who served as a ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

U.S. naval officer and naval engineer, was born in Texas. Nothing is known of his parents, nor even his specific place and date of birth. He graduated from Texas City High School in 1967, then attended Prairie View A&M University from 1967 to 1971, graduating with a BA in Electrical Engineering. One of his school's most distinguished graduates, Combs was named Outstanding Student Engineer of the Year by the Texas Society of Professional Engineers and Outstanding Senior Engineer while at Prairie View.

Combs also joined the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC), serving with the future navy vice admiral David Brewer while at Prairie View. Upon completing his undergraduate degree, Combs served for four years in the navy, joining the crew of the aircraft carrier Coral Sea as assistant boilers officer prior to its deployment to Vietnam in November 1971 Two weeks after returning to Texas from ...

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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Washington, North Carolina, the eighth of eleven children of Edward L. Cooper, a sheet metal worker, and Laura J. Cooper a homemaker One of the eleven siblings died in infancy the remaining ten became college graduates During his upbringing in North Carolina Cooper often faced the tribulations of southern racism He went to segregated schools and learned from his parents that he had to go out of his way to avoid conflict with whites Once when Cooper was eight or nine years old he got into a fight with a white boy As he put it It was the wrong day for him to call me a nigger and we had it out Stillwell 76 Cooper s father had to smooth things over with the boy s father to avoid the incident s escalation When he worked as a bellhop in ...

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Adam Rosen

astronaut and United States Navy Captain, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, one of four children of Yvonne Evans and Robert Lee Curbeam, a longtime employee of the Western Electric Company, an electrical engineering corporation later absorbed into Lucent Technologies. In addition to accruing over 3,000 flight hours (including 900 in space) in multiple aircraft and spacecraft, as of 2012, Curbeam held the record for most spacewalks (four) in a single shuttle mission, which he completed as a crew member of the Discovery shuttle in December 2006.

Curbeam was raised in the Baltimore area, and graduated from Woodlawn High School in suburban Baltimore County in 1980. He matriculated at the United States Naval Academy, and earned a degree in aerospace engineering in 1984 Immediately after college graduation Curbeam reported to Naval Flight Officer training for instruction In contrast to Naval Aviators NFOs do not actually fly ...

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Jeffrey R. Yost

physicist and engineer, was born in Newark, New Jersey. He was one of four children. His father worked at various maintenance and painting jobs and his mother was a teletype operator. After classes at Brooklyn Technical High School, Gourdine often worked long hours with his father on cleaning and painting jobs. This experience led him to focus on his studies as well as athletics in hopes of an easier life.

His talent in swimming earned him a scholarship offer from the University of Michigan but he instead chose to attend Cornell University He paid his own tuition early in his college career working for a radio and telegraph firm prior to receiving a scholarship for track and field Gourdine competed in sprints low hurdles and the long jump The six foot tall 175 pound Gourdine earned the nickname Flash as a result of both his speed and his favorite ...

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Raymond Pierre Hylton

naval officer, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son and eldest child of Samuel Lee Gravely Sr. and Mary George Simon Gravely. The family resided in Fulton's Bottom, one of the city's older and poorest neighborhoods, and the elder Gravely supported his family on a modest income as a U.S. postal worker in the mail-handling department. Mrs. Gravely was a homemaker who died when Samuel was fifteen years old. The couple had four other children.

Gravely worked at various jobs and ran errands to save for college, and after graduation from Armstrong High School he enrolled at Virginia Union University in Richmond in fall 1940. Athletically talented, he aspired to become a football coach, but he put those plans on hold following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 After having completed only two years of college he enlisted in the Naval Reserve ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

U.S. naval officer, submarine commander, and Commandant of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Gilbert Grooms, a postal worker, and his wife Julietta Grooms, a homemaker. Grooms grew up in Maple Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, and was a skilled basketball player at Maple Heights High School. However, Grooms's parents urged him to go to college, so he also focused on academics. Grooms considered several of the service academies when deciding on which college to attend, but eventually chose the naval academy to pursue a career as an aviator, as well as to play for its highly regarded college basketball program. And so, following his high school graduation in 1976, Grooms entered the naval academy as part of the Class of 1980.

Grooms came to the naval academy at an exciting time in its history not only ...

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Kyra E. Hicks

naval officer, was born in Washington, D.C., to Coleman Leroy Hacker, an author, army chaplain, and Baptist minister, and Alzeda Crockett Hacker, a public school music teacher and former director of girls at Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, Florida. The Hackers placed a premium on academic excellence. In a prophetic move they named the eldest of three children after personal friends, the Morehouse College president Benjamin Mays and the theologian Howard Thurman.

Benjamin Hacker spent his childhood years in Daytona Beach and in Dayton, Ohio. He graduated in 1957 with a BA degree in science from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. In 1958 Hacker married Jeanne Marie House, a Springfield native who later became a public school teacher. Their forty-five-year marriage produced three children, Benjamin Jr., Bruce, and Anne, and seven grandchildren.

Hacker forged a remarkable thirty year naval career which included ten ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

U.S. naval officer and submariner, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Jesse, a taxicab driver and a worker at a bus terminal, and Ella Diggs, a seamstress. Haney had long nurtured an interest in joining the army, but his perspective began to change when he was in high school. Prior to graduating from Eastern High School in Washington, D.C., in 1974, he worked as a math aide for the NAVSEA Systems Command where, as he later recalled:

I was a computer card puncher However my boss an O 6 captain had vision and I learned all the various computing languages One day he asked me what I was going to do after graduating and I told him I wanted to join the army Well his jaw dropped and he asked me why I wanted to do that He really opened my eyes and caused ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

U.S. naval officer and submarine commander, was born in Monticello, Florida, one of nine children of John and Mary Isom. The farm the Isoms lived on consisted of sixty-eight acres, a portion of which was once sharecropped by Roger's grandfather. His father was an army veteran, as were six of his siblings. Ironically, when his mother asked Roger early on to consider attending the U.S. Naval Academy, he flatly refused. However, Isom later noted that “when my turn came to join the Army, I looked at the Navy instead, partly to compete with my older brother, and just to be different. I went to the Navy recruiter and said what can you do for me, I want to be an astronaut” (author's interview, 4 Mar. 2007). He subsequently enlisted in the navy in June 1983.

From his earliest navy days Isom both aspired to and was ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

World War II veteran and U.S. naval officer, was born in Hamilton, Ohio, the son of Posey Kimmons and Mary Whitaker. He attended Hamilton High School and graduated in 1939. Afterward Kimmons, like so many other young men at the time, joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and was housed at a local camp, sending home a portion of his earnings on a regular basis. However, he also had another interest sparked by watching the 1937 black and white movie Submarine D-1 as a teenager. Eager to join the navy, Kimmons's interest was further piqued when another African American from Hamilton, George Morris came home from the service A tough looking submariner dressed in a navy uniform covered with medals and standing over six feet tall Morris made an indelible impression on Kimmons who later joked that Morris didn t tell us how hard it really was ...

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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the only child of John Wesley Sr. and Emma Laverne Scott Lee. His parents also adopted a son, Albert Lee Blount. Lee's parents had a wide disparity of educational attainments. His mother, who had a master's degree, was a schoolteacher. His father, a grocer, had dropped out of elementary school and was barely literate. As a youngster, Lee grew up in Indianapolis and in 1940 graduated from segregated Crispus Attucks High School. Lee then attended Indiana University in Bloomington, where he spent three years studying mostly science and mathematics as part of an intended pre-med course. He lived in a rooming house, because the university's dormitories were not open to black students.

In April 1944 Lee enlisted in the navy influenced to join by his friends and by his brother Albert s experience in that branch of ...

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Paul Stillwell

naval officer, was born in Tobacco Port, Tennessee, the son of Charles, a tobacco farmer, and Carrie Martin; he had two sisters and one brother. For the first few years of his life, Martin lived on a farm in Tennessee, near the Cumberland River. When Martin was about five or six years old, his father died. Because she was unable to keep up the farm, his mother moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where she became a seamstress. Graham Martin, by then seven or eight, went with his mother, while his siblings remained in Tennessee. He attended segregated public schools and had to deal with the Jim Crow practices of his new home city. For instance, blacks had to sit in the balconies of movie theaters, and the sports teams on which Martin played were not allowed to compete against teams from local all-white schools.

As he recalled in ...

Article

Yvonne Latty

U.S. Marine Corps sergeant, U.S. Navy captain, World War II and Vietnam veteran, Montford Point marine, and Iwo Jima survivor, was born in Lumberton, North Carolina, the eleventh and last child and only son of Elizabeth Morrissey and Thomas Matthew McPhatter, a master barber. During the Depression his family lost everything they had in the bank and they struggled for food and clothing. On 19 May 1941 he graduated from high school, registered for the draft, and enrolled at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, intending to study history. His parents could not afford to pay his tuition so he worked summers and during the school year.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941 McPhatter did not want to go to war He was exempted as an only son and had a deferment as a pre theological student because he ...

Article

Robert Fikes

surgeon and medical educator, was born Claude Harold Organ Jr. in Marshall, Texas, the second of three children born to Claude Harold Organ Sr., a postal worker, and Ottolena Pemberton, a schoolteacher. At age sixteen Claude Jr. graduated as valedictorian from Terrell High School in Denison, Texas, and followed his sister to Xavier University, a historically black Catholic school in New Orleans, from which he graduated cum laude in 1948.

Inspired by the achievements of the celebrated physician-inventor Charles Richard Drew and encouraged by two maternal uncles Organ chose to study medicine He was not allowed to enroll at the University of Texas because of his race His application to Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska however was accepted and he became only the second African American to be admitted into its medical school A focused hard driven student with a gift for public speaking Organ ...

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Andre D. Vann

naval chaplain and professor, was born in Newport News, Virginia, the son of Thomas David and Edith Rosalie Seabrook Parham. His father was a banker and real estate executive and his mother a homemaker. Parham often remarked that he was named for his uncle Thomas, who lived with the Parham family, encouraged him to go into the ministry, and pastored a church in Durham, North Carolina. Late in his career Thomas Parham Jr. delivered a famous sermon on why he preferred his middle name over his first name. “There are three reasons I use my middle name rather than my first name: ‘Doubting Thomas, Peeping Tom, and Uncle Tom.’”

The Parham family moved to Durham, North Carolina in 1921 after Thomas D T D Parham Sr received a cashier s position at the Fraternal Bank and Trust Company of Durham North Carolina which later merged with the Mechanics ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

U.S. Naval officer and submarine commander, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Theodore and Louvenia Peterson. Raised in rural Bluemont, Virginia, Joe Peterson's father was a stonemason, while his mother was a homemaker. The Petersons lived on a small plot of land and cultivated a variety of vegetables for their own use. However Joe knew that he wanted to gain a wider experience and, as Peterson noted in an interview, “the navy was the ticket” for a new life (phone interview, 19 Mar. 2007). His interest piqued by the naval movies he had watched from his childhood, after his graduation from Douglass High School in Leesburg, Virginia, Peterson enlisted in the navy in October 1968.

Upon completing boot camp Peterson volunteered for submarine duty and attended submarine school in Connecticut Rated an electronics technician Peterson saw his first sea duty on the missile boat ...

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Paul Stillwell

naval officer, was born in Marshall, Texas, one of three children of John Llwellyn, a mechanically inclined jack of all trades who at one time worked for the Buick Company in Michigan, and Bernice Bonita Ector Reagan, a domestic servant. The family left Texas when Reagan was a child. He grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana; Chicago, Illinois; and Flint, Michigan. Most of his education was in Chicago, where he graduated from Lindblom High School in 1939 A talented athlete Reagan won city and state championships in wrestling and earned letters as well in football track and boxing He also earned scholastic honors in high school He was recruited to Montana State University in Missoula on a football scholarship Reagan was a quarterback running back and blocking back on various plays He completed five semesters of instruction there but did not return after the fall semester in ...